Kenneth Mitchell: From North York to the new ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ series
This local actor dishes on his leading role in the new, much buzzed-about series Star Trek: Discovery and why he loves showing his kids where he grew up
Image: Johnny Vy/CBS
Be prepared to see a lot more of Kenneth Mitchell, only you might not recognize him with all the prosthetics and wardrobe covering him. As the Klingon leader Kol in the new Star Trek series, Star Trek: Discovery, Mitchell joins an all-star cast that includes Jason Isaacs, Michelle Yeoh, Doug Jones and Sonequa Martin-Green of The Walking Dead.
“It’s amazing to be a part of something that’s so iconic,” says Mitchell. “It’s not often you get to check off all the boxes on a project, and this one does. The ensemble is amazing. I feel really blessed.”
Growing up in North York, Mitchell actually graduated from the University of Guelph with a degree in landscape architecture before turning his sights on Hollywood.
“I lived at Bayview and Sheppard, between Bayview and Leslie. My parents still live in the same house that I grew up in,” he shares.
Still, early brushes with fame and performance made it seem he was destined for the big time. Mitchell went to Elkorn Public School with Sarah Polley and attended David Rotenberg’s on-camera master class with Rachel McAdams. He also went to Earl Haig Secondary with Scott Speedman, who became a good friend and attended Mitchell’s wedding to fellow actor Susan May Pratt. Today, Mitchell and Pratt live in Studio City, L.A., with their two children, Lilah and Kallum. But he still visits his Toronto family and friends every chance he gets.
“When I do come back home, I can see how everything changes on a monthly basis. The neighbourhood is growing exponentially. When I come home, I love to walk to Bayview Village mall and check out the neighbourhood. I love sharing that with my family now, showing them where my best friend used to live and taking the kids to the local park.”
Filming Star Trek: Discovery at Toronto’s Pinewood Studios also afforded Mitchell lots of time to connect with his Toronto friends and family — time that may be soon on the wane, if the show’s early buzz is anything to go by.
“It’s been 11 or 12 years since the last series. We want to honour everything that’s come before us but also push forward, push new boundaries. I haven’t seen a full cut of the episodes, but from what I’ve seen, the feeling on set, the scripts I’ve read, it feels really good. The quality is there, and the stories we’re telling, the characters and the relationships, it’s all there. I’m really excited for the fans to see it,” says
Mitchell, who adds the show is set roughly 10 years prior to the original series. “So we’re still using the gadgets and technology before that series, but giving it an upgrade in terms of its look.”
Mitchell also really enjoyed taking on the role of Kol.
“He is a great warrior, a bit of an alpha, who doesn’t see eye to eye with one of the other Klingon leaders. He also doesn’t respect or get along well with the Federation. He feels that they’re always trying to change the Klingons, take away their identity.”
Playing the Klingon role was challenging in more ways than one. For the part, Mitchell had to learn to speak Klingon — as part of the show’s approach, Klingons speak Klingon with each other, which is translated into subtitles.
“It’s an incredibly complex, guttural, very foreign language. It’s pretty much the opposite of English,” says Mitchell. “It was a massive challenge to learn my lines in Klingon, but it became incredibly rewarding.
When you get to set and you start to connect with the other actors who are speaking the language and you start to connect with the words and the emotions, it really feels like an operatic dance. You might not necessarily understand what you’re saying, but with the emotion, the feelings will come through. It’s a really beautiful thing to experience and watch.”
Prosthetics take three and a half hours to get in and about 45 minutes to an hour to get out of. Then there’s the wardrobe, which takes another 30 to 45 minutes to get into, and the eye contacts.
“When you start getting your wardrobe together, your prosthetics, and your teeth are in, and the eye contacts are in, you can’t help but feel alien,” Mitchell says.
He shares that there was even a Klingon nutritionist on set, to help keep the actors hydrated and healthy.
“She’d whip up organic smoothies all day, and we’d sip them through a straw, so it wouldn’t mess with the prosthetics. And they had these unique seats for us, so we wouldn’t ruin the wardrobe — they made these coffin-like chairs that we stand/lie down in on an angle.”
Besides Klingon speak and updated production, there’s another interesting thing about this series — the age of social media. “One of the great things about launching in the world of social media is we have the opportunity to immediately interact with the fans,” Mitchell says. “The people I’ve been interacting with and the buzz I feel is incredible. Everyone is really excited; they’ve been waiting. Star Trek fans are the ultimate group of fans. For a show that hasn’t been on for a long time to have such a high level of buzz, it’s amazing.”
It’s a long way for a boy from North York, who discovered a passion for acting during his summers at camp. So how did the landscape architect end up in Hollywood anyway?
“I went to this summer camp, and while I was working there one summer I met this girl, a Canadian actress. After some time, we started dating, and she introduced me to her agent at a party, and I told him about my love of performing. He told me to come in and read for him. He was one of the biggest agents in Canada. I performed a scene from Tommy Boy for him, which is absolutely ridiculous, and he sent me back outside with some sides to prepare. I cold read the scene with him, and he just saw something in me. I booked my first job the first audition I had and quickly started acting.” Roles in Miracle, Jericho and The Astronaut Wives’ Club followed.
“It’s been an amazing journey. There’s been ups and downs, but I take a lot of pride in my achievements and being on Star Trek is certainly one of them.”
New episodes air Sundays at 8 p.m. on Space and also stream on CraveTV Mondays at 8 p.m.